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Rock Street, San Francisco

As I try to take the order of what seems like a family of twenty, I watch the swarms of people flow in. I take a moment to look around me and see every single seat filled. The customers look around the room with intolerant scowls on their faces tapping their feet and looking at their watches. I all of a sudden feel dizzy and notice that I am shaking, all of my responsibilities suddenly weighing heavy on me. How am I the only server on? Where did all these people come from? It’s never been this busy in the entire time i’ve worked here.”Ooh the chocolate milkshake looks quite nice. Oh maybe I shouldn’t…” The wife ponders out loud. I feel confined at the table. Finally I finish the order and pull free physically and mentally unprepared to move on to the next family of a million. Looking around, I notice that there is no manager. I am the manager tonight. I notice there are no cooks and suddenly remember that I too am responsible for cooking for all these people. Take the order, pour the drinks, make the food, serve the food, make them happy.I go from feeling slightly nervous to being in a full panic. Mid-panic I look down and notice that I’m not wearing any trousers. Christ! How did I only just realise? More importantly, how did I forget them in the first place? People start looking at me, children start pointing and laughing at me. I desperately try to think of something to do when all of a sudden…My alarm. It’s 4:00 am and it’s time to take a shower and get ready for work. How unlucky can you be to dream about work before going to work. I would’ve set the alarm to snooze but didn’t want to risk finding myself back in that miserable dream. Reluctantly, I pull myself out of bed and start the shower.I press the buzzer for Tom my manager to let me in. It doesn’t make any sound on my end so I stand there for a minute hoping I pressed it hard enough and hit the right spot. I always know that I press it hard enough because I know that it’s a bit broken but every single morning that I stand there waiting for someone to come open the door, I decide that perhaps I didn’t press it hard enough and then I want to press it once more to make sure. Just when my finger is about to press it a second time, the door swings open and my manager greets me.”Morning” he groans. He’s even more tired than me.I always find it refreshing that my manager finds early mornings just as difficult as me. If I’m being honest it makes me feel more positive. Somehow the fact that neither of us are morning people seems to make early mornings that much more bearable. Nothing can be more annoying in the morning than a loud self proclaimed morning person. We all know one, and we all secretly wish that they would keep their joyful tone to themselves. At least that’s how I feel.I snap on gloves and move to the bathrooms to start my morning cleaning. There’s a meticulous process to cleaning them. Everything has its own special spray. One for the urinals, one for the counters and yet another one for the mirrors. When I first got my job here I was really slow and this was a very time consuming process. I confused the sprays and made sure not to leave any task unfinished. But I now find myself getting into a routine. It’s become second nature, swiftly moving from one task to the other, paying close attention to detail yet not wasting a moment, almost like a dance.Even though I dislike early mornings, I do enjoy the opening shift at work. I like doing my side-work early, when nobody else but me is there. I enjoy the routine, my dance. There’s nobody in the way, nobody breathing down my neck and no one slowing me down. I’m able to move at my own pace and get everything done just the way I like it. My pace is steady, perfectly steady. Not so fast that I find myself overwhelmed, but also not so slow that I find myself bored.During my routine my mind wanders and I am reminded of one particularly unforgettable night of work.Nothing was going right. The pace was not steady but insurmountable. I found myself wishing I had at least three clones of myself. I am responsible of juggling five tables’ orders at once. I’m trying to prioritise so that I can move swiftly through the rest of the shift.I finally approach the fifth new table, two older and heavier women. Even though a million things are racing through my mind, I find in myself a smile to pair with a calm and friendly tone of voice.”Hey there ladies, how’re we doing this afternoon?””You couldn’t care less about how we’re doing.” The large woman on the left snaps. “We’ve been waiting for half an hour for someone to take care of us. It’s about time you showed up.” It hasn’t been half an hour. That’s impossible. But the customer is always right.”I’m very sorry about that,” I force a sympathetic look and hope it doesn’t seem sarcastic. “It’s been a busy night, but I’ll see to it that I make it up to you. Can I get you something to drink?”I shake my head in frustration. Looking back now, I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t spit in their drinks or something.In an hour or so the regulars will start rolling in. That’s another thing I enjoy about my job. I’ve become pretty well acquainted with the people that come in at around this time because it’s less busy than in the afternoon. I would go as far as saying that some of them are friends now.Over at table 20, I serve a sweet older couple. They are polite and funny and never fail to mention how they wish their grandson was more like me. Two tables beyond them, I serve a man who comes in alone and sits at table 9. He’s also a regular. He always comes in with his laptop and works for an hour or so. I assume before he goes to work. He always looks exhausted. He doesn’t ask for much but is always smiling. There’s also a group of younger kids that sit out on the patio. They’re great to have around. They come to meet up before they head to school. They’re not your typical group of teenagers, annoying and disrespectful, but easy going with a sense of humour.I remember one day I was serving a couple who were sitting next to them and the husband didn’t know what to order. The wife laughed and said he was “the most indecisive person on Earth.” I laughed and assured him that I was the same and helped him choose something which I personally recommended. I was pleased to find out that he loved it.It’s days like those which remind me of why I love my job. I love communicating with other people. I love laughing and making other people laugh too. I love making sure that the time people spend with me as their server is an enjoyable and even memorable experience. I love serving people food which they love and I love giving people service which makes them feel appreciated and I love to in return be appreciated for the careful attention I am giving to each individual person. I love my job.

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